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Sunderland owner Stewart Donald gives update on stadium naming rights, kit deal & badge change

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During his latest appearance on the Roker Rapport Podcast, Sunderland owner Stewart Donald gave detailed updates on the sale of the SOL naming rights, our latest kit deal and whether the club’s badge will be changed.

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Sunderland AFC

The newest edition of the Roker Rapport podcast will be available soon, and today’s episode features the return of Sunderland owner Stewart Donald.

Full details of how to listen can be found below but during his appearance on the show, Donald discussed a topic that has been in the news recently, the possibility of selling the naming rights to the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland’s chairman said that selling the naming rights is an opportunity but made sure to point out that the name has to fit, as it would not be right to sell your soul only to end up with an embarrassing name:

I think the stadium naming is an opportunity. We’ve been in conversations with people on that and I’m like a football fan in that, as a board we have a responsibility and if the revenue is good, then my gut instinct is that we should do it but again there are certain brands you wouldn’t want attached.

The other thing with it is, you want it to try and sound right. You don’t want to sell your soul for the wrong amount of money and have a name that for a football fan is embarrassing.

So I think we need the right type of brands and opportunity, so that the value is right.

A report in a national newspaper last week claimed that a betting company was in the running, something that Donald denied:

I saw in The Sun, it said we’re talking to a betting firm. As far as I know - although I am not directly involved in that, obviously the numbers come to me and they say ‘we’ve got this offer’ - but I don’t think a betting company has ever come across my desk for the Stadium of Light naming rights.

I don’t think any betting company has shown an interest and we would have a dilemma there in the sense that if the fans don’t want a betting name associated with the stadium and the offer was really good, it would give us a decision to make. But we haven’t got that decision to make and the people we are talking to aren’t in that industry.

He added that, to avoid a possible excessively lengthy name, any decision will be ran by the Sunderland fan groups to ensure that the majority will be happy with the final decision:

If you keep Stadium of Light in the name, you don’t want a 15 word stadium, so it’s just got to have balance. The only thing I have said is ‘that carry on with the negotiations guys and when it comes to the critical stage, check with the fan groups and just get the feedback, then we’ll see what the groundswell of opinion is.

If 95% of fans say ‘not a chance, we don’t want it, we’re selling our soul’ and the money’s not fantastic, then you go ‘no, I won’t do it’. The other end of the spectrum is if that nobody really minds and the money is good, then let’s do it.

It’s probably going to be somewhere between the two.

I think it’s an asset that we should explore and we’ve got to try and get maximum value from it and I think we’ve also got to bear in mind the groundswell of opinion of the fans and take into account what they may or may not want the stadium called.

We’re talking about it but we wouldn’t sign a contract without talking to the fan base.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As far as aesthetic changes goes, it will stop at the naming rights to the stadium as Donald said that current club badge will not be changed, as there is not enough desire to change the badge, a process that would be expensive:

I think we’ll keep the badge.

Changing the badge is quite expensive and we could sign a striker for that. I might be wrong here but I don’t think there is a huge swell to change the badge.

If we change the badge it’s going to upset half the fans probably and not the others, so why spend a few hundred thousand pounds changing it, so I don’t think we’ll change the badge.

Donald also shed light on the latest situation regarding the club kit. Adidas are in the last year of their deal with Sunderland and the club are in talks with half a dozen kit providers but Adidas may still remain as the club’s official kit supplier due to a clause in their contract that allows them to match the best offer:

On the kits, this is the last year of the Adidas deal and the kit was chosen.

So what we’re doing now is we’re talking to half a dozen kit sponsors who have expressed an interest and the good news is there’s a big desire from some of these people. A bigger desire than there’s been for quite some time, to be our kit provider.

I think in the Adidas deal, I think - and I might be wrong - but somebody mentioned me off the club that Adidas have the right to match our best offer. So it may end up being Adidas on the basis of they do that but we are in negotiations now and conversations with the kit providers and we’ll sign a deal over the next few weeks I would imagine, when all the tendering comes in and the bartering, then we’ll decide who it is and then we’ll obviously go on to kit design.

Finally, Donald hopes to allow the fans a say in the design of the new kit, regardless of who the kit supplier is:

My view of it is that the kit provider that the club will choose because it’s a commercial deal and we need to get the best commercial rate. The kit design, I think the fans should choose, I would throw that out there, that’s my personal view but we’ll have to discuss it at board level because we haven’t but I can’t see that I am better qualified than 30,000 mackems to decide what our kit should be.

I don’t see why we can’t throw out four or five different kit designs and say ‘choose one guys’ and it’s quite a nice thing to do and it’s quite interactive. Again, a bit like the seats, it doesn’t cost you anything to involve the fans, so you should. It’s their team, they buy the shirts! So they should have more input on it than anybody else.

So I think what will happen is that we’ll negotiate, we’ll then say that this is the kit provider and what the length of the deal is and then I would hope that every year we can let the fans choose what the kit should be from a selection.

Sunderland AFC

The Roker Rapport podcast with Stewart Donald will be available from 8am today (Sunday, April 13) and you can listen to it as soon as it’s available by subscribing on iTunes, Acast, Spotify or YouTube, entering ‘Roker Rapport’ into your nearest search engine or by following us on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).